In Brief

Astir posts tender for private manager Hotel Astir Palace said yesterday it will launch an international tender to find an operator to manage the luxury complex in the coastal district of Vouliagmeni, 25 kilometers south of Athens. Astir, majority-owned by National Bank, said in a stock market filing that bidders had until September 23 to submit expressions of interest. It hopes to complete the tender process by the end of November. National Bank said in May it was considering proposals from its advisers regarding the transfer of the hotel management to a strategic investor as part of its divestment of non-core activities. Greek media have reported that hotel and casino group Hyatt Regency, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the Hilton group and Four Seasons Hotels may be interested in Astir Palace. (Reuters) Aspis Bank announces steep H1 profit rise Aspis Bank yesterday reported a 276 percent rise in first half earnings, year-on-year, to 4 million euros, based on a 22 percent boost to operating income, particularly from interest and commissions. Call deposits and repos rose 5 percent, while lending to households came to represent 54 percent of the total. Aspis projects profitability to continue at the same pace in the second half and said it aims at trimming operating expenses and expanding its number of branches. Laiki Cyprus bank Laiki Group posted a 65.1 percent increase in first-half net profit on the back of improved earnings in its retail banking and insurance divisions, it said. The group said net profit rose to to 23 million Cyprus pounds ($49.49 million) from 13.9 million in the first half of 2004. The group, Cyprus’s second largest, reported operating income of 118.9 million pounds, an increase of 11.9 percent on the same period last year. The bank said the gains reflected improvements in the quality of the bank’s loan portfolio, an increase in collections from loans and hikes in the prices of its products. Income from the insurance divisions of the group rose 16.2 percent. Bad debt provisions were down 1.6 percent. (Reuters) Albania’s energy A World Bank delegation will visit Albania September 1-15 to inspect progress on energy sector reforms the bank is funding in the tiny Balkan country, the state-owned Electro-Energy Corp said yesterday. The World Bank has invested US $116 million (95 million euros) in Albania’s electricity network and consolidating the energy market to so it can eventually be integrated into the European Union’s electricity market. Post-communist Albania suffers frequent electricity cuts due to poor management, a dilapitated network and a lack of rain to power hydroelectric stations, which provide the bulk of energy. (AP) Producer prices Greek producer prices rose 5.1 percent in July, year-on-year, and 0.7 percent compared to June, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said yesterday. The 12-month average rise was 4.3 percent, against 2.7 and 2 percent in the respective two previous 12-month periods. Sex Form Listed underwear maker Sex Form has been placed in the «under supervision» category by the Athens Stock Exchange following the company’s announcement of a strike by 210 staff regarding holiday allowances. Sex Form, which employs 418 people, said that the likely financial impact of the industrial action on its results could not yet be assessed.